Saturday, June 21, 2008

Delete "Elite," Tout de Suite



[Another weekend rant. But be of good cheer: it'll be my last. Also, I wrote it a while ago, so it's a little out of date. I'm emptying my drawers. As it were.]


Here is an opinion column that pretty much says what I've been thinking ever since Hillary Clinton's and John McCain's dismissal of the universal condemnation by economists of their gas tax holiday proposal. "Elitists," they called them. Them there 'lekshuals. Well, I've been thinking about it since she (unexpectedly), the wife of a president and daughter of the Seven Sisters, and McCain (expectedly), the son of admirals and duacentamillionaire by marriage, began trying to paint Barack Obama as an elitist. Naturally, the talking heads have taken up the cry. Just as it's assumed without scrutiny that John McCain is a wizard at foreign policy, pols promote the Obama/elitist meme as neogospel. The writer of the opinion piece said it well enough, but here's how I'd have put it:

FER GAWDS SAKE, PEOPLE!!! THE WORLD IS COMING APART AT THE SEAMS. WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF OIL, WE'RE MELTING, AND BEFORE WE'RE SWAMPED IN SEAWATER WE'LL MOST LIKELY DROWN IN DEBT. WAKE THE FUCK UP!! WE'VE TRIED IT WITH DUMB PEOPLE. ISN'T IT ABOUT TIME WE GAVE ANOTHER SHOT AT HAVING A SMART PERSON AS PRESIDENT??? NOW, WHEN OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT??? SHOULDN'T IT BE A GOOD THING TO HAVE LEADERS WHO ARE WELL-EDUCATED AND CAPABLE OF A COMPLEX THOUGHT??? DON'T THE TIMES DEMAND AN A-STUDENT, FERCHRISSAKES? ISN'T THINKING BEYOND BUMPER-STICKER PHRASES EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED? WOULDN'T YOU LIKE OUR PRESIDENT TO BE THE SMARTEST PERSON IN THE ROOM, THE ELITE OF THE ELITE? ONE WHO LISTENS TO OTHER REALLY SMART PEOPLE, WHO ARE EXPERTS!!!??? WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM??? ARE YOU REALLY GONNA BUY THE CRAP THOSE IDIOTS ARE TRYING TO SELL YOU??? #%$$#@@%&?&RS!!!

Or something.

We seem to have come to a pass wherein people not only don't care about intelligence in our politicians but have elevated stupidity to some sort of golden ideal. C-student? Heck, we can do better than that! How about bottom of the class at a military academy? Voters, in numbers large enough to flip an election -- so it appears -- care more about "relating" to a candidate (whatever the heck that means!) than about what he or she says about the really difficult problems we face. Thus, the two-carbon-fragment test: who'd you rather have a beer shot with. I think it's a sort of a mind-melt, mentally checking out of the debate: it's just too damn hard to think about the important stuff, and too scary. Let's talk wives, flags, fist-bumps. Enter the stupid. Cling to it, one might say.

There's a paradox: we saw it in the reaction to Barack Obama's "bittergate." The very people whom Republicans want to characterize as insulted by Obama's remarks are those that they (Republican strategists) assume want the simplest answers in all spheres: the Bible is the inerrant and literal word of God. George Bush never made a mistake. Gay marriage is more important than energy policy. In decrying Obama's poorly phrased but easily contextualized words, they count on the very thing they pretend to dismiss. You gotta be pretty elitist to think like that! N'est-ce pas?

20 comments:

Annie said...

Given Obama's statement yesterday on the FISA abomination - he's perfectly comfortable with stripping Fourth Amendment rights for all of us - there doesn't seem to be any intellectualism on display for the Constitutional Law perfesser.

He simply wants all of the executive power that Bush usurped (thank you Dick Cheney).

Where does that leave us?

Smack dab in the middle of your bolded caps, @#$% rant, methinks.

Matt Platte said...

So long, Sid, the rants were fun.

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

Please, don't stop! I love your rants, Sid, and this was among the best.

Robin said...

It's all in the framing Sid. If you have not already, read George Lakoff's "Don't Think of An Elephant" and then indulge in Clotaire Rapaille's "Reptilian Brain" studies and marketing strategies. The party that wins will be the party that frames the issues to the Reptilian Brain...the political/marketing team that incisively targets the primitive survival triune brain that provides our instinctual knee-jerk response.
Throwing any altruism to the wind, and relapsing into unabashed cynicism, I think the ultimate result will turn on the issues of framing versus more paramount issues of domestic and foreign policies, health care issues, a war that is emerging as a no-win Vietnam scenario, a recessionary economy...etc.etc.etc.

Simply put, as MM said "The Medium IS The Message."

Robin

Sid Schwab said...

Robin: well put! And sadly true.

Sid Schwab said...

annie: I confess to not knowing all of the details. The "highlights" I've heard include independent review of prior programs and affirmation of the need of forward judicial review. I may be naive, but the "immunity" aspects, to me, seem less important that ensuring that there is proper supervision by courts. Recognizing, of course, that courts aren't perfect. But I've always believed that the proper way to combat terrorism is not with armies but with intelligence gathering; and whereas I don't know the details (fool me once shame on shame on you're not gonna...) it seems to me necessary to be able, under legal and proper conditions, to listen in on certain communications. One would hope that the "perfessor," along with proper legal constraint, would do so within Constitutional authority. One would hope.

Plus, FWIW, he did say he'd work to remove the immunity part, in the Senate.

AlisonH said...

Sid, I love it when you go post-al, and I hope you don't stop. You say far better than I do what I think re the current national political situation.

Rico said...

Splitting hairs between the words 'elite' and 'elitist'? Yes, the moo-cow masses will certainly miss that one.

When Clinton ran for president, a lot of people were gaga over the fact that he played a saxophone--just like a "regular guy," tripping over themselves with dumbfounded astonishment that a presidential candidate could actually _really_ play on the spot with the Tonight Show Band, or what not. Now being able to showcase you're like everyone else is not a novelty; it's a new litmus test. But like you said, what if it's about intellectual thought itself? Would a candidate actually gain points by saying, "I may seem like an accomplished legislator and legal scholar, but don't hold that against me--I like saying 'fuck' and laugh at my farts just like you do!"

What's next? Are people aspiring to political office going to need to play quarters, do jello shots at a Peoria bar to win the heartland?

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (because I love how peppering French annoys the "freedom fries" crowd).

Anonymous said...

Is it really necesary to begin a post like this with a blasphemy? How aabout using Mohammed or Buddha instead? How about "FOR ALLAH'S SAKE"? That can't be divisive, can it? Offensive? Nah. No one would care.

Sid Schwab said...

Speaking from the heart, is all. When frustrations boil over, one tends not to think too much about how it sounds.

Texas Reader said...

Sid - I enjoy your rants as much as your medical stories, so keep 'em up.

Goddess help us all if McShame becomes our next president.

Anne said...

Oy, unfortunately we don't all have enough time to chuck the media and really do some digging. The whole Wright thing (which shouldn't have been an issue) was blown totally out of context. I downloaded the entire "questionable" speeches, and he was absolutely brilliant. He was honest and one of the smartest, if not the smartest, person I have ever heard speak. He should be the next president, and no, I'm not kidding.

Silverstar said...

I only have one quibble with your rant. We must remember that the guys at Enron were the "smartest guys in the room", too.

Sid Schwab said...

silverstar: debatable. But a fair point.

paulus said...

At the moment, the current administration's creative ways of ruin the country lead to a glimpse of a dim and uncertain future. Therefore, I am standing strong for change despite political parties; although John McCain is another George Bush, I am left with no other choice than Obama. As for why George Bush was elected in the first place, I am quite dumbfounded. In my opinion, the Christian far right, Bible stomping mentality are held responsible for this train wreck. Furthermore, our current problem is that we need to direct focus on much more prevalent issues, in which doesn’t include abortion, gay marriage, and the censorship of sex on television. As we are led astray by maniacs, who do we turn towards for guidance?

As a former church attendee myself, I was absolutely sick of hearing the right wing, Christian hypocrites pontificate from their air conditioned buildings, standing at the pulpit, propagandizing the Iraq War, praying for George Bush and that we win the Iraq War, and constant "need" for building funds. It angers me that they have little or no regard in the consequences of War. For an example, since we did many of these men give up millions for a charity, do not own a jet or live in a gated community, send their children to Iraq’s front lines, are struggling with serious school loan and other debts. Of course there are many small unknown preachers that make small changes but they aren’t the preachers you are forced to read in Churches, watch on Christian television stations, listen to on Christian radio, nope, these places are left for the highly paid propagandists. For an example, I went to a Third Day concert, in 2004, and the main singer mentioned George Bush setting off the crowd in mad cheers with Hitler-like blindness, It truly terrified me.

In conclusion, these are the people we let run our country into the ground, meanwhile; they prosper allowing their genetic traits to live on. So the next time that you purchase the latest Christian novel, music album, donate to mega churches, donate to TV stations, buy their clothing, think about what your money is actually going towards. You're much better off supporting the struggling pastors who do good, or start your own charity. In addition, the next time you take advice on which candidate to check off in the voting booth. I am sure Billy Graham, Patty Robertson, and other “mega-church pastors” such as Rick Warren (doesn’t deserve Dr.) appreciate your monetary contributions in return for some homemade propaganda and a side of blissful ignorance.

Reference on some of these churches at http://www.forbes.com/2003/09/17/cz_lk_0917megachurch.html , or go to your local library to find their profits.

http://midwinter.com/lurk/making/warprayer.html “The War Prayer, by Mark Twain” Everybody should read this once.

Personally, I believe the Bible has a lot to offer in regards to spirituality, wisdom, and hope, unfortuantly; it has been manipulated and used by many of these leaders for their own political gains.
/endrant

PS, I love your blog, please don't stop writing these thought provoking entries. Hopefully, someday I'll be half as good of an M.D. Unfortunately, I don't know how we will ever replace, the older and wiser, M.D's such as yourself.

Annie said...

Two must reads are the columns by Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory at Salon.com and Balkinization. Glenn and most of the authors at Balkinization are Constitutional Law Scholars and Lawyers. Their perceptions on what is being done to the Fourth Amendment aren't presented from any particular political point of view, but rather, from the theory and application of constitutional law to the rights of the citizenry.

The fear of the executive branch usurping too much power was never that it was all about George W Bush, but that every president, once tempted, would refuse to give it up and re-balance the three branches. Obama is providing the first hints at that fear made real.

Glenn is spearheading an effort to protest the FISA legislation by raising the awareness of the voters of the transgressors against the Constitution. He has written an extraordinary series of posts about FISA, the Fourth Amendment and the eroding rights of the citizenry.

gay CME guy said...

Sid:

PLEASE DON'T STOP your weekend rants! I implore you. I'll beg if it'll help.
RE: anonymous: It's really difficult to give any credence to a respondent critcizing a post who doesn't have the gonnads (or ovaries) to put their name (or nom de blog) on their entry. WWJD?

Sid Schwab said...

annie: Glenn is one of my favorite and most-admired writers. I'm a regular reader. As to presidential power, I've long said it ought to be conservatives who'd be most outraged at what Bush has done to aggrandize presidential powers: if not philosophically, then over the prospect of an Obama or Clinton acting similarly.

I guess the hard and sad truth is that practically no politician at that level is able to act nobly or only in the best interest of the country. I continue to believe, for now, that Obama would be better than most. It remains to be seen. But if not, given the closeness to the cliff, it won't matter any more, because it'll be too late.

JP said...

Can we special order a rant if Obama wins on Nov. 4th?

Sid Schwab said...

Maybe so. I know that if he loses, given the huge problems we face and the crude and retrograde solutions offered by McCain, I'll be so paralyzed with disappointment and despair that I may never move again, much less write.